MIDDLE OF DESERTEDNESS: THE MAGHREB


26/11/2016





In the 1980s when a new world order began to be established, north western Africa experienced the effects of this process. Where Africa, always referred to by the cliché “the Black Continent” meets the Mediterranean, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya negotiated throughout the 1980s, finalised the talks with the Marrakesh Summit held on February 12th 1989 and established the Arab Union of the Maghreb.
The main aims of the Marrakesh Agreement were to develop ties among these north western African countries, especially regarding trade and the labour market, as well as to strengthen their independence.
However, the long Ottoman rule followed by colonial European administrations as well as the destruction of WWII have always been serious obstacles in the way of Maghreb countries. In the quarter of a century that has passed since the Marrakesh Summit, countries of the Maghreb have not made any headway. While the governments of these countries, most of them founded by Europeans under the illusion of a monarchy switched hands many times through military coups, the wealth which should have been the African peoples’ was transferred to Europe and the price was paid by Africans, often in blood. As in other Arab states such as Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Saudi Arabia, the borders of Maghreb countries were often drawn with a ruler on a map and artificial and endless problems were created for the peoples of these countries. The “Western Sahara” dispute between Morocco and Algeria, the struggle for leadership between Morocco and Tunisia and Morocco’s distrust of Libya, particularly under Gaddafi, are some of the issues which immediately spring to mind.
The Maghreb countries which tried to recover with the fiction of the Arab Spring still distrust each other as evinced by the fact that the Moroccan-Algerian border was still closed in December 2014, despite the countries underlining the importance of acting together once more at the 30th Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of the Arab Union of the Maghreb held in February 2012. The unending squabbles among the Maghreb countries result in the wealth of north western Africa flowing out of the region, chiefly towards Europe and African nations are unable to benefit from the trade. The Maghreb countries carry out only 2 percent of their total trade with each other, while 60 percent of their trade is with the EU and 24 percent of it is with the ASEAN countries.
Algeria is differentiated due to its central location in the region which was called al Maghreb al Arabi and included Sicily and Malta under Arab rule. Being the largest country in Africa by landmass after Sudan, Algeria has suffered under one of the most brutal examples of European colonialism. Having come under French occupation in 1830, the darkest pages in Algeria’s history were written after the 1940s. More than 1.5 million people were killed during the French occupation and administration. On May 8th 1945, when something similar to the Arab spring occurred, French troops fired on civilian demonstrators, killing thousands. Retired General Paul Aussaresses, an expert in torture techniques, has admitted to carrying out summary executions of 1,509 people during his time in Algeria. Today such executions continue in different form. France and other western imperialists who are wary of the pressure of non-governmental organisations carry out such executions through local mercenaries and thus think they can avoid crimes against humanity. Italy has carried out similar actions in Somalia and killed around 300 thousand people in the mid-1930s. Great Britain’s history of massacres stretches far down into history. Britain has caused chaos in Africa and the people it spread to its other colonies around the world or massacred in enslaved Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda number more than the total population of some present European states.
After its bitter experiences the Maghreb resembles an oasis stuck between the sea and the desert. In the middle of desertedness, north western Africa witnesses the destruction of of its native population who could never own it, while the destroyers continue to benefit from the wealth of this unique oasis.

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